I would like to provide an intuitive visualization of my database for readers and users of the database that does not require technical knowledge of database structure. The figure will be included in a journal article, and the audience is primarily students and scientists, many of whom will not understand concepts such as "many to many" or keys. My goal is to convey the contents of the database with some insight into these relationships, but to convey a conceptual understanding rather than a technical one. A technical and comprehensive description of the database will be provided as an appendix, in the documentation.

I see that there are many types of ER diagram, but I am not sure which one, if any is best suited for explaining a data model to my audience.

How can I represent this in a non-technical way that avoids keys and provides a more intuitive understanding of the relationships among tables?

Here is an example of my starting point:

enter image description here

The actual database will have 11 tables, including 3 used to define many-to-many relationships, and many fields that can be dropped.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 - I always thought some network layout libraries/algorithms could be good tools for this, but I haven't seen any examples. Perhaps treating just the tables as nodes would be the most fruitful, and not worry about displaying the specific variable names. $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    Apr 22, 2013 at 16:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've voted to re-open this question. It has similarities to any network based visualization techniques (tables and variables are nodes - relationships are edges). $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    May 2, 2013 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Andy W How is it related to statistical analysis or machine learning? The purpose is of an entirely different nature--this question is related to illustration and database theory--so even though there might be some techniques of data analysis that could be brought to bear on this question, that does not make it any more pertinent to our site. $\endgroup$
    – whuber
    May 3, 2013 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber, I don't see the question as related to database theory at all, I just see it as a lens into the subject material. IMO the statistical portion is How can I represent ... the relationships among tables? Where the line is between statistical visualization and mere illustrations of relationships (or simple diagrams) I'm not sure though. IMO it is close enough to stay open. $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    May 3, 2013 at 13:51


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